Sunday, 22 December 2013

Scene 70: Frozen Review

I saw Frozen the other day. I hadn't intended too. When I saw the trailer it looked like it was going to be typical Disney fare - and I was rather put off by the jokey sidekick snowman, which  I thought would probably only appeal to younger kids.

I was also rather disappointed that they'd just done it in same animation style as Tangled, even though I had loved the look Tangled and its characters had. I guess I had kind of expected Disney to use a different animation design for its next film - was this style going to be their trademark design for every CGI film from now on?

However, that was until I came across the film's song Let It Go - a rip roaring, want to sing it out loud, stuck in your head, show stopping sort of song that was so good, I had to see the whole film.

I wasn't disappointed - Frozen is a delightful and enjoyable family film, that manages to change up and challenge some of the old tropes.

Based loosely on the Snow Queen its main protagonists are two princesses called Elsa and Anna. Elsa has the ability to create snow and ice, a power she enjoys as a child until she accidentally hurts Anna. Afraid that her powers might become dangerous, her parents decide to keep her shut away, whilst Anna now with no memory of Elsa's power, grows up with a distant sister and no one to play with.

Inevitability tragedy strikes, when their parents are killed. Elsa now must become queen, but on the day of the coronation things go wrong when Anna meets a prince, and thinking she's in true love and agrees to marry him that night - much to Elsa's horror. During the ensuing argument between them Elsa accidentally reveals her powers, and scared by people's reactions flees into the mountains - leaving the kingdom in an eternal winter. Of course Anna immediately goes after her, acquiring help from a kooky ice deliverer, his reindeer and a snowman called Olaf along the way.

I really enjoyed this film for several reasons. First off, its main protagonists are two sisters who completely drive the story, and the film focuses more on them and the idea of family. Secondly, the queen in this movie is not a villain, as she so often is in other films and television shows - think Snow White, the Red Queen, Once Upon A Time and the original Snow Queen etc. In the fact that Elsa starts off as a princess and then takes on the responsibility of queen, without needing to marry anyone - surely a first in Disney history?

Both the women are great characters. Neither are perfect and have a distinct personality and motivations. Elsa is the responsible, sensible one, desperately hiding her true self, believing she is dangerous. Meanwhile Anna is more bubbly and optimistic and though more naive, her agreement to marry the first prince she meets is understandable, considering that she's grown-up without anyone much for company and probably has been rather lonely.

That's not to say the male cast aren't great. Kristoff, an ice cutter who Anna hires to help her, is an odd but lovely guy. Whilst Olaf the snowman manages to pull off being genuinely sweet and rather funny, instead of annoying, forced or just plain redundant as some cute sidekicks can be.

Finally there are the songs, which are done in a Broadway musical style and are all pretty damn good. Let It Go is definitely the best, and will get stuck in your head, whilst my second favourite is Fixer Upper, an amusing song that reminds us that's no-one's perfect.

To top it all off, this is also the first film in Disney history to be directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee - who directs along with Chris Buck according to IMDb - and who incidentally also wrote the screenplay!

In short, I thought this film was a refreshingly different princess story and a well-told family film. I definitely recommend Frozen this Christmas!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Scene 69: Pills Short Film

I've been involved in quite a few short films for the last few years - as a producer, extra, runner, editor etc. However, the latest film I've been involved in - not including my community film editing work - is particularly special. Pills is a short sci-fi about time-travel and trust, with a script written by me!

Yes, my very first script translated to the screen. And as with many scripts, it took a while to get there. I came up with idea at least a couple of years ago, and first pitched it in a session with Jon Reiss on a Second Light Lab for Producers.  A few months later I wrote the script, but it wasn't until earlier this year, after failing to get funding for it from a competition, that I decided, I'd produce it myself.

So, I got together with a couple of guys I've worked with before at Red Dog Film - a young cinematographer called Ben Groves who I also had as director, and a young director/actor called Will Jones who played the main protagonist George. I then cast along with an actress who been in Coins, a short film written and directed by Will Jones, as the second main character Izzy. Finally a new actor who is part of a film club I help run for RDF called ReBrand rounded off the cast as George's friend Mike.

The film was shot over a weekends towards the end of the summer, and is currently still in post-production - I've seen a rough cut and I'm rather pleased with it.

So, what did I learn whilst making the film? Well, I discovered first hand what it's like to have actors and directors taking your precious script and causually change lines or throw in new ideas, and though it was a little disconcerting, I knew that it was the way it was meant to be. Scripts as they say, are blueprints for films, and films are all about collaboration - everyone throws in their ideas, and hopefully expands and augments the original idea, making it better and bigger.

Or as I put it - a script is like a cake recipe. You perfect it, then give it to someone else - and yes, they aren't going to make the same cake as you did, but they might add things you never thought of and improve it.

In short, I enjoyed making the film and I'm intending to make more in future.

If you want to check out a few pictures from the shoot for Pills here's a link to the Facebook page: Pills on Facebook.